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The Washington Capitals' 5 Biggest Weaknesses Early in 2013-14 Season

Robert WoodCorrespondent IOctober 21, 2013

The Washington Capitals' 5 Biggest Weaknesses Early in 2013-14 Season

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Eight games into the the 2013-14 NHL regular season and the Washington Capitals are struggling. The Caps are 3-5-0 for a total of six points and are fifth in the Metropolitan Division standings

    So what are the Capitals' weaknesses? 

    Let's just say it was a challenge narrowing this slide show down to only five weaknesses. 

    Here now are the Washington Capitals' five biggest weaknesses early in the 2013-14 season. 

     

    Note: All statistics updated through Oct. 20 courtesy of NHL.com unless noted otherwise. 

5. Goal Scoring

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    The Washington Capitals are not scoring a lot of goals. They are currently ranked 18th in the NHL in average goals for per game at 2.50. 

    This is a significant departure from the 2012-13 regular season, when the Caps finished fourth in the league in average goals for per game at 3.04. 

    Washington will have to improve on their average goals for per game if they want to return to the postseason. Of the 12 teams that currently rank below the Caps in this statistic, only three of them place within the top 16 in the NHL's league standings.

    As you know, only the 16 best teams in the league qualify for the postseason. Proficient goal scoring is a major part of joining that select group. 

4. 5-on-5 Play

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    The main reason the Capitals are not scoring enough goals is that they are struggling when the game is played at full strength.  

    The Caps have 10 goals during five-on-five play. That ranks 24th in the league. The Caps also rank 27th in five-on-five goals for/against ratio at 0.59. 

    It's a good thing the Capitals have the NHL's best power-play percentage at 33.3, producing as many power-play goals as five-on-five goals. Otherwise, they would be hard-pressed to score any goals at all. 

3. Shot-Blocking

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    Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

    Over the course of the previous two seasons, the Washington Capitals established themselves as one of the better shot-blocking teams in the NHL. However, the trend has disappeared so far this season. 

    Here is a table showing the Capitals' shot-blocking statistics for the previous two seasons as well as this season, listed in chronological order: 

    SEASONGBSRANKBS/G
    2011-128213026th15.88
    2012-13487658th15.94
    2013-1489526th11.88

    Shot-blocking is a valuable team skill that can have a domino effect on a team's defense. If the Caps cannot resume their strong shot-blocking, this team will suffer in other areas. 

2. Goaltending

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    The main job of a hockey team's defense is to help make their goaltender's job as easy as possible. One sure way to do this is to reduce the number of shots an opponent takes. After that, it is up to the goalie to make the saves and keep the goals against from getting out of control. 

    Take a look at the table below and you will see that while the Capitals' defense has been consistent from last season to this season, the Capitals' goalies have struggled upholding their end of the bargain: 

    SEASONSA/GRANKGA/GRANK
    2012-1332.328th2.7118th
    2013-1432.823rd3.1225th

    The Capitals' goalies can make better use of the defense provided for them. 

1. Defensive Zone Play

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    Anthony Vence/Getty Images

    Of all of the weaknesses the Capitals have displayed this season, none has been more damaging then how they've played in their own end.  

    Katie Carrera of The Washington Post wrote the following passage on Oct. 17 about the Capitals' play in the defensive zone after the team's 2-0 shutout loss to the New York Rangers the night before: 

    A failed clearing attempt, sometimes two, would trap the Capitals in their own end to commence an ineffective chase sequence. The Rangers would zip the puck around and back out to the point for quick shots and then recover rebounds, with Washington’s players falling a step behind at each juncture. Shifts would drag on, with the Capitals unable to establish possession long enough to end the threat, and it seemed only a matter of time before a goal would be allowed. 

    Not all of the Capitals' defensive deficiencies listed above will show up in the box score. But ultimately, they will show up on the scoreboard. 

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